Counter-Strike 2 is live and free-to-play on Steam right now

Look alive, jarheads! Grab your Glocks and drop your – well, whatever you’re holding that isn’t a gun, unless it’s a kitten or something, in which case tuck it gently under your arm and brace yourself for the news that Valve have finally released the public version of Counter-Strike 2, the long-awaited free-to-play technical upgrade (and replacement) for perennial Steam chart-topper Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, after six months in limited access. You can download it here.

The new instalment of the legendary bomb-defusal FPS runs on the latest iteration of Valve’s Source Engine, and stirs in a bunch of new whizbangs and bellwhistles.

These include brand spanking new versions of old maps, including celebrated touchstones like Dust 2. Some of the maps boast swankier Source 2 lighting and physics-based rendering for materials and reflections. There are new weapon effects, too, such as dynamic volumetric grenade smoke, which shifts and expands believably and can be “pushed” out of or into the way with gunfire.

Counter-Strike 2 boasts a revised “CS Rating” leaderboard system and a new “sub-tick update” server architecture which will theoretically ensure that your grenades fly and bounce as they should. Wash that down with tuned-up tactical audio that apparently gives you a more precise idea of the environment, as if I didn’t already get stressed enough in CSGO attempting to triangulate the sound of approaching feet.

Smaller flourishes include gloopier blood, more lifelike fire and a new buy menu which lets you sell back mistakenly purchased weapons within a certain time at the outset of each round. As for skins and cosmetics – if you’re a Global Offensive player, anything and everything you’ve purchased will carry over to Counter-Strike 2 automatically when your Steam copy updates. You can also expect new community mapmaking tools in the shape of the Source 2 Item Workshop.

I fired up Global Offensive for the first time in a year or two the other night to revitalise my, haha, “Counter-Strike instincts” ahead of this week’s launch. Our team immediately lost eight rounds in a row, and did I accidentally flashbang half my side several times a round? You bet your sweet ass I did. Making a difference!

I broke out of the rut eventually via the classic noob tactic of buying the beefiest shotgun available and finding a dark tunnel to lurk in. We still lost the match, but I did make it to the final 1v1, much to the outrage of teammates, only to forget about the bomb and run out of time.

And that was my last ever match of Global Offensive, an exceedingly well-wrought objective-based shooter I first played on Xbox 360 back in 2012 – RIP. I look forward to discovering how Counter-Strike 2 measures up. Hopefully this won’t be another Overwatch 2 scenario.